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Living in Vancouver Pros and Cons

If you’ve ever met me in real life, chances are you know I LOVE living in Vancouver. We spent almost 6 years living in this beautiful city. Right now we’re travelling in Europe and exploring different cities to live in and I miss living in Vancouver so much. However, that doesn’t mean I’m blind to some of the downsides.

Vancouver ranks highly pretty much every year on lists of the best places to live in Canada and the world, and in similar rankings for places where people are happiest.

If you visit Vancouver during summer it’s easy to see why. You’re surrounded by natural beauty from beaches to forests, mountains, lakes and more.

You can do pretty much every outdoor activity you can think of within a 30-minute drive if you’re living in downtown Vancouver. There’s great food, plenty of live music with bands visiting Vancouver on tour and there’s a laid-back feel to the city.

However, living in Vancouver in the fall and winter can be a different story.

The weather is notoriously rainy in Vancouver (or Raincouver) and can rain every single day non-stop for a month (I’ve experienced that!). It’s expensive and it doesn’t have a great nightlife. So yeah, living in Vancouver isn’t for everyone and we’ve met people who’ve not enjoyed the city.

Whether you’re looking at travelling to Vancouver during your IEC Visa or considering moving to Vancouver more long-term, here’s an in-depth guide to the pros and cons of living in Vancouver, BC and what to expect.

Considering moving to Victoria? Check out my guide to Victoria vs Vancouver!

Advantages of living in Vancouver

prospect point in summer

Advantage: Incredible access to the outdoors

Vancouver is surrounded by ocean, mountains and forest. You can see the mountains from pretty much everywhere in the city and there are numerous beaches in Vancouver both downtown and a little further out. It’s one of the best things about life in Vancouver.

There are incredible pine forests both in Stanley Park downtown and in North Vancouver.

You can step out of your door and be right on a beautiful beach and walk along the ocean within minutes if you live downtown. A few more minutes and you can be walking through old forests.

You can ski in the morning at one of the three ski hills in North Vancouver (Cypress, Seymour and Grouse) and then spend the afternoon on the beach – I’ve actually done this!

There is world-class mountain biking on the North Shore just 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver, climbing in Lighthouse Park or in nearby Squamish, paddleboarding, kayaking and sailing are all nearby.

Plus, if you’re looking for hiking, there are so many incredible Vancouver hikes. You’re truly spoilt for choice. Some of the most popular hikes include Bowen Lookout and St Mark’s Summit as well as those over on Mount Seymour (where we got engaged!).

It’s pretty hard to beat the access to the outdoors you get by living in Vancouver.

Looking for more things to do in Vancouver and nearby? Check out my Vancouver travel guides which are full of information on the best things to do in Vancouver, the best Vancouver restaurants, and detailed guides for each of the main neighborhoods.

Advantage: Great, varied cuisine

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Tacofino in Vancouver

Vancouver is said to be one of the most culturally diverse cities in Canada and this means you get some delicious food. Conde Nast Traveler even named Vancouver one of the world’s best foodie cities.

Whatever cuisine you want to eat, you can find it in Vancouver.

Vancouver is famed for having delicious and cheap sushi. This comes from its location next to the ocean as well as its multicultural background.

Whether you’re looking for dim sum, ramen, sushi, Mexican, Italian, French or just some good Canadian fare, you’re spoilt for choice in Vancouver.

My favourite restaurants in Vancouver are St Lawrence (Quebecois food) and Tacofino (delicious burritos and tacos).

There’s also a huge vegetarian and vegan scene in Vancouver, especially around Main Street, and you can find many vegan restaurants. Some of the best include The Acorn and Meet both of which I enjoyed when I ate there.

There’s an annual Dine-Out festival where many restaurants have great deals on 2- and 3-course dinners. It’s the perfect time to try out a restaurant in Vancouver that’s been on your list.

My Vancouver travel guides pick out the best restaurants in Vancouver for each of the main neighbourhoods.

Advantage: Greenery in the city

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Vancouver’s Stanley Park near the Lost Lagoon

Similar to the access to nature pro of living in Vancouver, is how green Vancouver is. There’s even a term for it: ‘Vancouverism’!

Vancouver is considered a model for urban planning and architecture and the city has been developed to include plenty of green space for its residents.

Plus, you can walk through neighbourhoods like the West End (where I lived) and be walking under a canopy of trees.

There is also a rule which restricts buildings of certain heights and locations so that the views of the mountains and oceans are protected. While some people complain about this, I think it’s such a great idea to keep Vancouver an enjoyable, liveable city.

In Vancouver, you get the benefit of being in a city, but feeling like you’re not.

Advantage: Beautiful beaches in the city

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Second beach in Vancouver

One of my favourite things about living in Vancouver was the beaches. We lived one block back from Sunset Beach in the West End and being able to see it when we stepped out of our apartment building was incredible.

Sunset Beach isn’t the only beach either. There are so many!

There’s English Bay Bech, Third and Second Beach near Stanley Park. Then Jericho, Locarno and Spanish Banks out nearer Kitsilano and Point Grey.

You can also drive over Lion’s Gate Bridge and enjoy so many beautiful beaches in West Vancouver.

Advantage: Vancouver has great schools

If you’re considering moving to Vancouver with kids, then you’ll be pleased to know that Vancouver, and Metro Vancouver, have great schools.

Vancouver students get some of the best grades in Canada and there is a choice of both private and public schools.

Vancouver school placement works by neighbourhood. Whichever neighbourhood you live in is where you go to school, so many parents choose which neighbourhood of Vancouver to live in, based on where they want their children to go to school.

This can make housing prices in that area more expensive and there can be high demand for the ‘best’ schools or not enough places. However, this is a problem that’s common in many major cities around the world and not unique to Vancouver.

If you’re looking for higher education, there are many universities in and around Vancouver. There’s the prestigious University of British Columbia (UBC) which is well connected by buses (and soon the SkyTrain), Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Emily Car Art School and the Vancouver Film School amongst others.

Advantage: Vancouver is an extremely walkable city

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Walking the seawall in Vancouver

One of the City of Vancouver’s aims is to make Vancouver a walkable city where residents can walk to amenities they need without the need for driving.

Having lived in Vancouver for 6 years, I can say they’re doing a great job of this. It’s one of the things that makes Vancouver a great city to explore in 1 day.

Vancouver’s downtown core (the bit on the peninsula surrounded to the south by False Creek and Burrard Inlet to the North) is extremely walkable. You can walk from Science World in the East to Stanley Park in the West in less than an hour (and there are beautiful views on the way).

Further south, you’ve got the hubs of Main Street, South Granville, Point View and Kitsilano all with their own village feel and supermarkets, doctors, schools, parks, dentists, gyms, cafes, shops and more.

Advantage: Vancouver’s public transit system is good

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False Creek Ferries!

For a North American city, Vancouver has really good public transport. Sure, it’s not as well developed as public transport systems in European cities such as London and Paris, but it’s great for North America.

Vancouver has a robust system, Translink, which has buses and the longest driverless train system in North America: the SkyTrain! It can mean that you don’t actually need to own a car if you live in Vancouver.

The SkyTrain was built for Vancouver’s World Expo in 1986 and most of the line is above ground, with underground stations the closer you get to downtown. You’ll get great views the whole way.

There are 3 different lines connecting all of Vancouver and the surrounding areas, and an extension is currently being built out to UBC. At major connection points, there are fast bus lines too.

In addition, there’s the Sea bus that goes from downtown Vancouver to North Vancouver and is extremely reliable and the False Creek ferries and Aqua bus that take you from the West End to Yaletown, Kitsilano, Olympic Village and Granville Island. They’re my favourite mode of Vancouver public transit!

Combined with how walkable and cycling-friendly Vancouver is, you really don’t need to drive while living in Vancouver.

Advantage: YVR airport is super well connected

Vancouver International Airport, YVR, is less than 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver and it’s super well connected.

It’s been voted the best airport in North America over 12 times! It’s got lots of greenery, some great eateries, a super cool fish exhibit and, in 2022, opened a new terminal with a one-of-a-kind outdoor enclosure that simulates the natural outdoors of BC.

This new area has floor-to-ceiling glass panels and an opening in the roof that exposes a forest and coastal-like environment to weather — complete with real trees in real soil that was “blown” into the space during construction.

The new terminal, Pier D at YVR, also has a yoga space (very Vancouver), dog washrooms, digital installations, new food options more seating and even hot water stations so you can whip up some instant noodles on the go!

Whether you’re landing in Vancouver, or taking off, you’ll get amazing mountain and ocean views from the plane too.

It’s super easy to get to YVR from downtown Vancouver by taking the SkyTrain so you don’t need to worry about paying for parking while on vacation.

Advantage: Close to the US border

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Visiting Bellingham, WA

If you love travelling, Vancouver is just 30 minutes from the US border which means you can explore the bordering state of Washington by visiting Bellingham or Seattle.

I took many trips to the US to go hiking, skiing and mountain biking in the Washington area!

Can’t decide when it comes to Seattle vs Vancouver? Here’s my guide!

You can also take a longer road trip to Oregon or wherever else you fancy.

The border lines can get long, but if you are a Canadian or US citizen you can apply for NEXUS which gives you fast access at the border and is much quicker.

Advantage: Great shopping in Vancouver

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Old Faithful Store in Gastown, Vancouver.

Vancouver is one of the best places in Western Canada when it comes to shopping.

Besides the major shopping centres found along Robson Street downtown, there are some great independent shops in Vancouver throughout Gastown and the rest of the city, luxury and designer shopping on Alberni Street, discount designer goods at Tsawwassen Mills and the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet and the large shopping centre in West Vancouver, Park Royal. The last one was where I’d end up buying most of my Christmas goods.

There’s also Granville Island with plenty of food treats, places to pick up Canadian souvenirs, and great art and jewellery shops, and Londsdale Quay market which is similar.

Some people even plan visits to Vancouver just for shopping!

Advantage: Fun sporting events

While none of Vancouver’s sports teams is a regular winner of their leagues (with the exception o the Vancouver Whitecaps football/soccer team), there are lots of great sporting events that happen annually in Vancouver.

There are the Canucks who play at Rogers Arena in Yaletown, downtown and the Vancouver Giants in Langley who are both hockey teams. There’s the Vancouver Whitecaps for soccer and the BC Lions for soccer and football who play at BC Place and then there’s baseball out at the Nat Bailey Stadium

You can also watch the Rugby 7s at BC Place every year, or head up to Whistler to watch ski jumping and bobsled competitions.

Advantage: Loads of bands tour in Vancouver

While many people say Vancouver has no nightlife, I think that just depends on what you’re looking for.

We enjoyed lots of live music while living in Vancouver from bands from all over the world such as Snow Patrol Mø, Tom O’Dell, Caribou, Ludovic Einaudi and Maribou State. Plus you get people like Justin Bieber and other big names playing stadium gigs at BC Place.

My favourite venus is the Commodore Ballrooms, but we saw people at. theQueen Elizebeth Theatre as well as other venues.

Vancouver is a major tour date on most bands’ tour lists as they go around North America so you can see some really great live music in the city.

Advantage: Stanley Park

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Biking Stanley Park with views of Lions Gate Bridge

Stanley Park is one of the city’s top attractions and is part of what makes living in Vancouver so enjoyable.

The park is a huge forest complete with pine trees, some of which are centuries old, streams, lakes like Beaver Lake and the Lost Lagoon, and a beautiful 10 km stretch of path (the Vancouver sea wall) that is accessible only to pedestrians and cyclists.

The seawall extends past Stanley Park too and goes on towards Kitsilano via Jericho and to Canada Place downtown.

When you go biking in Stanley Park you’ll pass beaches, sculptures and attractions including the Vancouver Aquarium and Prospect Point. There’s also the Second Beach Pool which is a great place to enjoy the summer while swimming at the outdoor pool.

Advantage: Vancouver is one of the mildest places in Canada

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cherry blossom season!

Unlike other Canadian cities such as Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa in winter, Vancouver is relatively mild all year round.

In the winter, you’ll typically only get a few days of snowfall within the city and most of the time the temperature is well above zero. This isn’t true if you’re visiting Toronto in winter!

While yes, it does rain a lot during winter in Vancouver, usually that means it’s falling as snow in the mountains which means you can go skiing within 30 minutes of downtown Vancouver, or plan a trip up to Whistler just 2 hours away for World Class skiing. Even if you’re not into skiing, you should visit Whistler in winter!

And, while many Canadian cities are experiencing snowfall well into April, spring in Vancouver sees Vancouver celebrates cherry blossom season where the city is awash with pink blossom on the trees!

Summer in Vancouver has reliably nice sunny weather with little rain. Temperatures have been increasing over the years but you’ll usually only get 1 or 2 weeks of temperatures above 30ºC. Plus, there are plenty of outdoor swimming pools and beaches and rivers to cool off in.

However, there is usually a period when the city and surrounding areas suffer from wildfire smoke (see disadvantages below).

Vancouver in the fall is pretty rainy, but you’re surrounded by beauty and there are still plenty of fun things to do in Vancouver when it rains. It’s never that bad.

Advantage: Vancouver’s cycle network is brilliant

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cycling Vancouver’s seawall while living in Vancouver

I never really cycled when living in the UK and that’s because our cycling infrastructure is generally pretty bad.

In Vancouver, I felt super safe while cycling and I cycled a lot!

When I was working as a dog walker in Vanover for 3.5 years, I cycled in between houses to pick up a dog and walk it. This meant I was on and off my bike for about 6-8 hours a day and I cycled all over Vancouver.

Sure, there were some moments when drivers weren’t very friendly and didn’t give you much space or cut you up but in general cycling in Vancouver was safe.

This is mostly down to Vancouver’s huge cycling infrastructure.

Vancouver has a huge network of cycling lanes, most of which are separated from the road in one way or another.

There are cycle-friendly streets which are one or two blocks over from the main roads and much quieter for car traffic, and it can often be quicker to bike around Vancouver than drive (since there are obstacles put in drivers’ way to keep the streets quiet in residential areas.

This was a big advantage of living in Vancouver for me and I think it’s a cool part of the Vancouver lifestyle.

Advantage: You don’t need to know French

Canada is a bilingual country with the official languages of English and French.

If you’re someone who doesn’t speak French, this can be an issue in cities such as Montreal. In Quebec, French is the dominant language and you’ll really need to know it for most jobs and for the day-to-day.

Vancouver is English-speaking and so you can get around without knowing any French. You’ll also hear plenty of other languages being spoken including Mandarin, Hindi, Farsi, Korean, Spanish and more!

There are distinct cultural communities all throughout the city with areas such as Commercial Drive being known as Little Italy and Richmond being heavily Chinese speaking.

So, if you do want to learn another language, living in Vancouver could help!

Disadvantages of living in Vancouver Canada

yaletown vancouver travel guide

Disadvantage: Costs of living in Vancouver is expensive

There’s a running joke that BC stands for Bring Cash rather than British Columbia. And yes, there’s no getting around the fact that Canada is one of the most expensive cities to live in Canada.

It’s not cheap and the cost of renting a home, purchasing a home is really high.

Renting a 1-bedroom apartment in Vancouver will cost an average of $2,500 per month as of January 2023. You can definitely find cheaper places if you look for buildings that aren’t brand new and don’t come with extras such as concierge, gyms and pools.

You can also move further out and make the most of the cycle network or public transit

However, there’s no getting around the fact that the monthly cost of living in Vancouver is high.

Accommodation is still cheaper than in UK cities like London though. And, having lived in both, I feel like. you get a lot more for your money in Vancouver than in London. Plus, the tenancy laws are more in favour of tenants in Vancouver with more protection from evictions and rent increases than in London.

Fortunately, electricity is super cheap since it’s all hydro powered (I paid an average of $20 a month while living in Vancouver) and even the older buildings aren’t that old.

When I moved into my apartment in the West End, it was described as an old building. It was only from the 1970s vs the buildings and houses I grew up living in from the early 1900s or late 1800s!

For an average lifestyle, living alone, you really need a salary of about $50-60,000 a year

Disadvantage: Cost of travel to other Canadian provinces

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Visiting Montreal

Travelling in Canada is expensive and that’s true when you live in Vancouver too. There aren’t many budget airlines that serve Canada and even those that do exist aren’t budget when you compare them to Europe’s budget airlines.

However, when you consider the sheer distances you’re travelling when flying across Canada you can see why. Plus, we should all be looking to lower our carbon emissions from flying anyway.

But travelling in Canada from Vancouver is made harder by the lack of long-distance buses or trains. It’s far easier to travel between Canadian cities on the east coast than it is on the west coast. Mostly because there aren’t any other major west coast cities!

From Vancouver, it is often cheaper to fly to Hawaii or Asia than to fly to Toronto. I even found that flying back to the UK from Vancouver was cheaper than flying to Montreal sometimes!

If regular visits back to your family are important to you then this is a big point to consider before deciding to live in Vancouver.

There are also so many places to visit in BC that you might find you don’t even need to travel elsewhere. There are beautiful trails and cities on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, the desert and vineyards in the Okanagan and the Rocky Mountains out east.

Disadvantage: When it rains, it really rains

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Embracing the rain while living in Vancouver

Vancouver gets a lot of rain.

While the summers are usually pretty dry, the winter and fall in Vancouver can be very grey and rainy. And when it rains in Vancouver, it really rains.

If you wake up and see it’s raining or cloudy outside, then you can expect that weather to continue for the rest of the day.

It doesn’t change that much throughout the day which is very different to what I’m experiencing living in Scotland!

In November, it’ll often rain for some amount of time every single day of the month.

However, the rain isn’t always torrential. Sometimes it’ll just be drizzly (though sometimes it will pour too!).

When living in Vancouver I tried to embrace the rain. You could still get outside and enjoy the mist and the clouds in the forests in North Vancouver, see the waterfalls near Vancouver in full flow and get a delicious smell from the plants soaking up the rain.

Plus in winter, rain in the city often means snow in the mountains and more skiing!

And, if all that fails, then you can take a flight to Mexico, Costa Rica or Hawaii as many of the locals do.

Disadvantage: The nightlife isn’t that good

Despite having said that Vancouver gets lots of great live music from bands on tour, a downside to living in Vancouver is that the nightlife isn’t very good.

While this wasn’t an issue for me, since I’m not much of a clubber anymore, people that complain about Vancouver, often cite this as a reason they don’t like it.

There are a few areas for nightlife in and around Granville Street and you can find dancing and clubs, but it’s not a huge scene in Vancouver.

If nightlife and clubbing are important to you, you’d probably be better off living in Toronto or Montreal.

Disadvantage: The traffic and Vancouver drivers

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Vancouver gets a bad rap for its traffic but I personally think it’s better than most major cities. And really, with Vancouver’s cycling infrastructure, walkability and public transit, most people don’t need to commute by car if they really think about it.

Traffic in Vancouver can be slow during rush hour during the week. It also gets bad on Friday evenings between Vancouver and Whistler and Vancouver and Abbotsford/Chilliwack when people are heading out for mountain adventures. The same is true on Sunday nights in the reverse directions as people return from their adventures.

While this traffic is the last thing you want, I actually think it’s kinda cool that that’s the reason for the traffic. Vancouverites love the outdoors so much that they’re off out exploring and enjoying nature!

The other related downside is that Vancouver drivers are pretty terrible. They’ll change lanes without indicating and like they’re earning money on the number of times they can change lanes (causing traffic), they’re impatient and they seem incapable of moving over for ambulances or using that as an excuse to bomb down an empty lane behind them.

“Why are Vancouver drivers so bad” is one of the top suggestions when you search for posts on Vancouver! But, while they’re bad, they’re nowhere near as bad and aggressive as drivers in New York or London!

Disadvantage: Wildfire smoke in summer

Vancouver has another season embedded within summer: wildfire season.

A downside to the lack of rain that Vancouver and the surrounding areas receive during summer means that the land gets dry, really dry. Add some lightening to that, a cigarette butt, a spark from a car, or an unauthorised campfire and you’ve got a wildfire that can spread quickly and cause smoke to stretch for miles and miles.

For the 6 years that I lived in Vancouver, we had a week or more of wildfire smoke in the city. Some years it wasn’t that bad and not very noticeable, and others it was thick smog that made the skies go orange at sunset and came with warnings to stay inside, or at least not exercise.

This isn’t a unique Vancouver problem and is a sad realisation of climate change and more extreme weather conditions. However, it is something to bear in mind, especially if you’re someone who has a history of lung conditions or breathing problems.

Disadvantage: There are some areas which are less desirable

As with every city, not all parts of Vancouver are super pretty and popular to live in. In Vancouver, the least desirable part is East Hastings, or the Downtown East Side (DTES).

this is one of Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhoods and has become an area where open drug use, prostitution, theft, crime and mental illness concentrate. There are hundreds of people living on the streets who have suffered from poverty and/or drugs.

While it seems like an unsafe area, when I’ve passed through it during the day, I’ve never felt under threat. Most of the people here are just going about their days and incidents with tourists or other Vancouver residents are pretty rare.

However, if you’re looking for somewhere to live in Vancouver, I wouldn’t recommend this area in particular.

Disadvantage: Theft can be a real issue

While I generally felt safe in Canada walking solo and going about my daily life, the main crime is theft.

Your bicycle will get stolen if not locked with a D-lock or brought inside overnight. If you have a bike room in your building, do not store your mountain bikes or expensive city bikes in them if possible as bike rooms are often broken into.

Never leave anything in your car as cars are often broken into and anything mildly valuable stolen. I lost count of the number of smashed car windows I saw when walking around Vancouver.

This sounds bad and theft is never nice but it’s also a common issue of living in a city and not a unique problem to living in Vancouver.

Disadvantage: People in Vancouver aren’t as friendly

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People always say that people in Vancouver aren’t especially friendly. While there is some truth in this if you’re comparing them to those in the southern USA, I think this is a bit unfair.

I didn’t find people in Vancouver any less friendly than in other countries I’ve lived and travelled in.

If you start speaking to someone, they’re not going to ignore you and just carry on (not in my experience anyway).

As with moving to any new city, making friends can be difficult. I made friends through Instagram, and by attending groups such as running clubs, hiking groups and events through Meet-up. You have to put in some effort, but I think that’s true of any city.

Disadvantage: Gas prices can be expensive

Gas prices are notoriously expensive in Vancouver. This is in part due to the taxes that are put on petrol by the government.

Residents in Vancouver pay some of the highest gas prices in the country and can really up the cost of owning your own car.

However, as mentioned above with transit, cycling and walking, you’ll find you don’t need to drive your car that much during the week (unless you’re commuting from far away, or have mobility issues).

We barely ever used our van, Elvis, during the week. It was only at weekends when we’d head to Squamish, Whistler or Sun Peaks, that we’d end up driving.

There’s also EVO Car Share which is a great car share scheme in the city and Metro Vancouver. You pay an annual fee of about $1 and then pay per minute while you use the car. It’s a great way to get around the city without having to deal with insurance, parking and petrol costs.

The cars also have bike and ski racks on the roof so they’re perfect for Vancouverites. If you live in Vancouver I’d highly recommend signing up!

Disadvantage: Sitting on a fault line

If you’ve been doing a lot of research about living in Vancouver chances are you’ve come across people talking about ‘The Big One’.

By this, they’re referring to the potential for a huge earthquake that could strike Vancouver.

Vancouver sits on the Cascadia Subduction Zone fault line which runs from Northern Vancouver Island all the way down to Northern California. This is the most earthquake-prone region of Canada and small, low-magnitude quakes happen regularly.

It’s believed that when this ‘Big One’ happens, it will be a 9.0+ magnitude and will result in a tsunami with waves 100 feet high.

Buildings and infrastructure in Vancouver are earthquake proofed as much as possible, but there’s no getting around the fact that this is a risk of buying or moving to Vancouver.

However, for most people, it’s not something that crosses their mind, and shouldn’t be a reason to put you off living in Vancouver

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Camping near Vancouver at Mt Seymour while living in Vancouer

How to transfer money to Canada from abroad

Moving over to Vancouver requires getting a visa (if you’re under 30 and from a Commonwealth country or others, check out the IEC visa) and transferring your money from whichever country you’re currently living in.

When we moved to Canada, we used Wise to transfer money. We’ve also used it since moving back to the UK to transfer $ to £ and I use it as my regular payment card since I receive income in a variety of currencies

With Wise, you can send money abroad with the lowest service fees and great exchange rates. You can even keep it in Wise and then just use a Wise card to pay for services, direct debits and everything else like you would with another bank.

You can set alerts to only transfer money when the exchange rate is at a rate you want. And wise will even tell you when you could transfer your money somewhere else for less.

Sign up today and begin moving your money to Vancouver safely without extortionate fees.

Overall thoughts of living In Vancouver

I think it’s clear that I love living in Vancouver but sure, it’s not very everyone. Ultimately it comes down to what you’re looking for and if you’ve been wondering what is Vancouver like? Then hopefully you’ve now got a few answers.

If you want a city with a banging nightlife, regular theatre and art shows and plenty of history, then Vancouver isn’t going to be for you. If you’re looking for a city which has access to the outdoors for hiking, skiing and everything else in nature, then Vancouver really can’t be beaten.

Though Vancouver has great live bands and plenty of museums, culture and history (at least for a European) aren’t in full supply. Though I would say it’s got more of both of those than many other Canadian cities.

You also need to factor in the cost of living. Vancouver is expensive but many of the activities you can enjoy here are virtually free and you can still find cheap eats, cheaper rents and things to do in Vancouver.

FAQs About Living in Vancouver BC

What’s it like living in Vancouver vs Toronto?

You’ll have a very different experience living in Vancouver vs Toronto. Toronto and Vancouver are on complete opposite sides of Canada and have very different lifestyles and cityscapes.

Toronto vs Vancouver is more of a big city, with more of a financial district. It’s also harder to do outdoors activities (though not impossible). Vancouver benefits from the laid back west coast lifestyle, while Toronto is more business focused.
Someone once said to me that in Toronto people ask you what you do for work, and in Vancouver they ask what you do for fun. I think tha’s pretty accurate!

What is it like living in Vancouver vs Calgary?

Both Calgary and Vancouver have great access to the oudoors and mountain activities. Calgary is only a few hours from Banff in the Canadian Rockies and there’s loads of hiking there.

While it doesn’t rain nearly as much in Calgary, the winters in Calgary vs Vancouver are a lot harsher. It’s not uncommon for the snow to fall in late September and continue on and off until late April. You’re also more likely to get extreme heat waves, still deal with wildfire smoke but perhaps for longer. However, you do get more sunny days even when it’s cold. The city is smaller than Vancouver and more sprawling. I also didn’t find it very attractive, and there’s no coastline.

Calgary has a very dry climate and the Chinook winds can make people with migraines suffer worse than elsewhere.

Where is Vancouver located?

Vancouver is on the west coast of Canada in British Columbia. It is north of Seattle in Washington State and is the largest city in BC. However, it’s not the capital of BC. The capital of BC is Victoria on Vancouver Island.

Is it worth living in Vancouver?

For me, it was absolutely worth it. I loved the access to the outdoors, the natural beauty of Vancouver, the food scene and I didn’t find it any more expensive than in London. In London, catching up with friends would mean dinner and drinks (expensive). In Vancouver we’d go for runs or hiking (free). I also felt my healthiest living in Vancouver.

Is Vancouver expensive?

Yes. It’s very expensive to rent and buy a house in Vancouver. However, renting and house prices in Vancouver aren’t too different to major cities around the world including London, New York, San Francisco and others and I personally think you can get more for your money.

What is a good salary in Vancouver to live?

To live in your own apartment in Vancouver and eat out a couple of times a month, you’ll need a salary in excess of CAD$50,000 a year.

Is Vancouver a safe place to live?

I never felt unsafe in Vancouver but I recognise that’s not everyone’s experience. I would go for runs early in the morning as the sun was coming up, and walk through the streets after dark. The biggest crime seems to be theft and that’s more theft from cars or of bikes, rather than of people.

What is the cost of living in Vancouver?

The average cost of renting a 1 bedroom apartment in Vancouver in 2023 is $2500. You can still find cheaper options and areas especially if you’re not looking for somewhere with a gym, pool or concierge. I use this website to get a rough idea of living costs in different countries we move to.

Is vancouver a good place to live?

That depends on exactly what you’re looking for. If you classify cheap = good, then no. But, if you’re looking for somewhere that has great access to the outdoors but benefits of being in a city (food, transport access etc) then yes, Vancouver is a good place to live.

Last Updated on November 17, 2023 by Hannah

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